Teachers: Please note that this week’s film includes powerful and disturbing images — including violence between protesters and police. Be sure to review the film before screening with your class.
What are you willing to fight for — even at the risk of being injured, or dying?
“‘I’m Worried That I Will Die:’ Hong Kong Protesters Write Final Goodbyes” is a three-minute film that touches on themes of activism, justice and sacrifice. It profiles young protesters in Hong Kong who are fighting for democratic reforms and freedom from China’s tightening grip on the territory. As violence escalates between demonstrators and the police in Hong Kong, protesters have started writing “last letters” to their loved ones, in case they don’t return. These notes chronicle the mental and emotional state of frontliners coming to terms with risking death for their beliefs.
1. Watch the short film above. While you watch, you might take notes using our Film Club Double-Entry Journal (PDF) to help you remember specific moments.
2. After watching, think about these questions:
What questions do you still have?
What connections can you make between this film and your own life or experience? Why? Does this film remind you of anything else you’ve read or seen? If so, how and why?
3. An additional challenge | Respond to the essential question at the top of this post: What are you willing to fight for — even at the risk of being injured, or dying?
4. Next, join the conversation by clicking on the comment button and posting in the box that opens on the right. (Students 13 and older are invited to comment, although teachers of younger students are welcome to post what their students have to say.)
5. After you have posted, try reading back to see what others have said, then respond to someone else by posting another comment. Use the “Reply” button or the @ symbol to address that student directly.
6. To learn more, read “In Hong Kong, Gasoline Bombs, Masks and … Goodbye Letters.” Cora Engelbrecht writes:
“When you find this letter, I might have already been arrested or killed.”
This is how a 22-year-old protester in Hong Kong began what he worries could be the last letter to his family. He used the pseudonym “Nobody”; like most of the young people who have been confronting the police on the front lines, he fears arrest or death.
I met “Nobody” and his cohort during a recent Sunday demonstration. After 19 weeks of street battles with the police, the protesters’ roles are well rehearsed: They move swiftly, each to his or her appointed task, using codes and sign language. They assemble barricades in minutes, only to disperse in seconds.
But I came to observe handiwork of a different kind. As the violence intensified over the summer, I learned that young protesters were writing farewell notes to family and friends in the event that they were arrested or killed. They call them “Wai Shu,” or “last letters.” Some carry handwritten copies to the streets in their backpacks or wallets. Others hide them at home, in drawers and under mattresses. Several people read them to me off their phones.
“Nobody” told me he wrote his letter when he was at a protest last month in Causeway Bay, after witnessing an undercover officer fire into a crowd. “Right in front of me, live bullets,” he said. “At that moment, I learned that my life was at stake.”